On Tuesday, there were 356 COVID-19 patients being treated in intensive care wards throughout Australia. Of those, 25 were fully vaccinated.
While the data points to the extraordinary efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines in preventing people from becoming severely unwell, being hospitalised and dying, it does raise the question: why do a small number of people become seriously ill and, in rare cases, die, despite being fully vaccinated?
An intensive care unit staff specialist at Nepean hospital in Sydney, Dr Nhi Nguyen, said those who are fully vaccinated and die tend to have significant underlying health conditions. Being treated in intensive care, where people may be on a ventilator and unable to move, added to any existing frailty, especially in elderly people, she said.
“If we think about intensive care patients in general, whether they are there due to COVID-19, pneumonia or any other infection, we know that those who have underlying disorders, those who are frail, and those with co-morbidities will have a higher risk of dying from whatever the cause of being in intensive care is,” she said.
“Being fully vaccinated against Covid protects you from getting severe disease, yes, but it doesn’t completely protect you from getting Covid. So if you are someone with chronic health conditions, what might be a mild disease or mild infection in a young person or a person who is in good health, will have a greater impact on you.”
She said this was why the Australian Technical Advisory Group for Immunisation (Atagi) had recommended boosters for those people who are severely immunocompromised. On Wednesday the government said it intended booster shots to be rolled out to the aged care sector within weeks, and to be available to the whole population by the end of the year.
Source: The Guardian, 20 October 2021